Preparations

One week before February 1st, and the madness is already beginning. One week until February Album Writing Month, or FAWM, kicks off, and 28 days of songwriting begins. Facebook’s FAWM group has been buzzing with activity all week, last years website, http://www.fawm.org, has been taken down, and replaced with a welcome splash screen while the hosts frantically update the site for the coming hoard of creative types, and across the whole world, people have been getting their gear ready.

For some, that means a new notepad, a stack of pencils, and enough caffein and snacks to see them through, while for others, it’s doing a month worth of chores ahead of time, so they’re free to create. Some restring dozens of instruments, or put new skins on the drums, while others acquire new instruments.

Gear acquisition seems to be a habit or addiction with musicians, and despite this being a writing challenge, concern over demo quality looms large. Many adopt the k.i.s.s. standard, and use a phone, tablet, or digital recorder, and just capture the idea. Others go full on album ready production with every single song they write, occasionally going so far as to include an epic music video. Most are somewhere in between, with some kind of computer interface, a basic microphone, and some kind of editing software, so they can do a bit of light editing, or include a few parts, without going into full on production.

Part of the fun for many is the opportunity to either co-write, or collaborate. With the Internet being so prevalent, and so many songwriters gathered in one digital place, the opportunity to find someone who compliments your skills is very real. Last year, I put lyrics written by others to music for a rough one-take acoustic demo. The first was a co-write between two others, and the second was written by someone who focuses on lyrics during FAWM. The commonality was the miles between everyone involved. I’m in Michigan, and the co-writers were from the east and the south, and the individual was from Australia. Sharing ideas is no longer limited to your own backyard.

This will be my fourth FAWM, and my preparations are pretty routine by now. I move my primary recording area to the living room, so that I can be close to gear when an idea hits, or when I have a spare moment. I make sure that cable routing and gear placement isn’t going to interfere with day to day life in the room, and I start playing with everything I intend to use, so I’m sure that the signal levels are set, the interface is working, and I set up a template, so I just have to open a new file and start working.

My FAWM Headquarters
The extra work this year was a proud parent moment. My daughter (age 12) has decided that she wants to participate this year, so we set up a small recording area in her bedroom. I bought her a new notepad, pulled out an old Taskam 4 track cassette recorder, hooked up a microphone and an instrument cable, and she arranged her instruments. Once she was shown how the recorder worked, she’s been experimenting, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

My Daughter, learning the art of 4-track recording
If she’s interested, there’s even a 4 track challenge, which involves a tape being started with a single track, then mailed out to another 4-track participant, who adds a track and passes it along, until all 4 tracks are used.

For me, the biggest part of FAWM is that everyone is welcome. Sure, the goal is to write 14 new songs, but even one new song is more music than was in the world before. So what if you’re new to songwriting, and can’t come up with anything you’d want to hear, write stuff you’d never let see the light of day, share the lyrics, ask for help, and become better. This year, next year, or years down the road, you might end up capturing lightning in a bottle and writing the next big hit … or not, and it’s alright either way.

One thing’s for certain, if music lives inside you, FAWM can help you bring it out. Are you going to accept the challenge? If so, how are you going to prepare?

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